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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

April 24, 2014 at 4:53 PM

Guest: Experienced teachers need new advancement opportunities

Katie Piper

Katie Piper

I am fortunate to work with a collaborative and talented staff at the public high school where I teach. Over the past few years, all teachers at Sammamish High School in Bellevue had the chance to work on a curriculum design team and re-imagine the courses we teach to make them “problem-based.”

In this approach, units of study are organized around authentic problems that students must solve, typically while playing a role such as a candidate for public office. Some teachers have also taken on leadership roles while remaining part-time in the classroom, and have helped plan high-quality professional development that most of my colleagues agree is an improvement over what school districts traditionally offer.

But most of these opportunities are not the norm today in public education, and they may not be able to continue to the same degree at our school because most of this work was made possible by a federal Investing in Innovation (i-3) grant. Next year is the last year of our grant, and many of us wonder what comes next.


0 Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: Advanced Placement, Katie Piper, Sammamish High School

April 24, 2014 at 11:49 AM

Round-up: State loses No Child Left Behind waiver, study finds low-income students get less sleep

Washington first state in country to lose NCLB waiver: U.S. education chief Arne Duncan revoked Washington’s No Child Left Behind waiver on Thursday, making the state subject to many requirements of the federal education law. The move comes after lawmakers declined to make student test scores a part of teacher evaluations as mandated by the Obama administration.

Study: Low-income students less likely to get enough sleep (Los Angeles Times): A study in western Pennsylvania found that disadvantaged students “are faced with challenges that may result in different sleep patterns.” The results of the study are featured in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: No Child Left Behind, round-up, waiver

April 24, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Who’s graduating on time? In Everett, the rate keeps rising

The Everett school district used to have one of the worst on-time graduation rates in the Puget Sound area. But after a concerted effort over more than 10 years, the district has raised its on-time graduation rate from the low 50s in 2003 to more than 80 percent.

Last year, after a few years of stagnation, it saw another increase — from 81.8 percent in 2012, to 84.4 percent for the class of 2013.

gradratesThe district credits the rise with a renewed effort to examine, student by student, the problems and challenges that students encounter, said Jeannie Willard, the district’s on-time graduation coordinator. (How many school districts have a position like that?)

One new lesson: The district found that it helps to give students an immediate chance to catch up if they fail a class, not making them wait until the next semester, or summer school. Now, for example, teachers sometimes write contracts with students to finish missed work after a semester ends.


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: Everett School District, graduation rates, high-school graduation

April 23, 2014 at 1:06 PM

Round-up: School bond measures fall short, Tulsa program helps kids by helping parents

Lake Washington, Everett bond measures fall short: Bond measures in the Lake Washington and Everett school districts failed to garner enough votes in the first round of results released Tuesday evening. Both proposals were scaled-back versions of earlier plans that were rejected by voters in February.

Tulsa Head Start program helps kids by helping their parents (NPR): A nonprofit in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a city regarded as a model for early-childhood education, links its Head Start program with career training and other support systems for parents. Organizers say they’ve seen parents develop more confidence and several go back to school to finish their degrees.


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

April 23, 2014 at 5:00 AM

‘Just Learning’? In most juvenile prisons, students languish

Screen shot from "Just Learning." Data source: Consolidated State Performance Report, US Department of Education.

Screen shot from “Just Learning.” Data source: Consolidated State Performance Report, US Department of Education.

In every arena of education, Americans have become relentless in their search for evidence of results. That goes for preschools, colleges, anti-dropout programs — you name it. Except for one long-lingering category: juvenile detention.

The purpose of locking kids up has always been rehabilitation over punishment. Yet no central office in Washington — or nationally — tracks educational outcomes for this group of students, which needs help perhaps more than that any other to get on track. (Only 37 percent of youth in juvenile prisons are there for violent crimes; the rest have drug, property or public-order offenses.)

Last week, the Southern Education Foundation, a nonprofit based in Georgia, released findings from “Just Learning,” its national look at academic outcomes for the 70,000 young people incarcerated on any given day in the United States. The results were damning.

Fewer than half of youths earned a single course credit while locked up. Only 9 percent got a GED certificate or high school diploma. As a group, western states showed slightly better results — with 53 percent of incarcerated kids earning a course credit, though only 7 percent completed school.


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: juvenile detention

April 22, 2014 at 12:42 PM

Round-up: High court upholds affirmative-action ban, grieving borrowers told to pay up

Supreme Court upholds affirmative-action ban (AP): The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s affirmative-action ban in a 5-2 decision today. The ruling bolsters a similar voter-approved ban in Washington that prohibits public colleges and universities from using race as a factor in admissions decisions.

Borrowers ordered to repay student loans in full when co-signers die (AP): The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says it is getting more complaints from borrowers who have been unexpectedly ordered to repay their student loans in full following the death of a parent or grandparent who served as a co-signer. Many private loan companies include mention of that possibility in their contracts; federal student loans are not affected.


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

April 22, 2014 at 11:11 AM

Guest: Let’s call a truce on teacher evaluations


Todd Hausman

Common sense is hardly commonplace in education policy today. Alliances are formed in Olympia, yet nobody is playing to let anyone else win. As a result of this mutual distrust, no improvements were made to our evaluation system during the recent legislative session.

Teacher evaluations have really become the crisis du jour in public education. Washington is at risk of losing its waiver from No Child Left Behind requirements and thus its control over approximately $40 million for low-income students. However, the debate in Olympia has largely been about preserving the quantity of federal funds, not the quality and strength of our teacher-evaluation system. So, while legislators were busy quarreling over whether to make student growth on statewide tests part of evaluations, they missed other opportunities to make actual improvements.

Done well, teaching is a highly complex art, and an evaluation of that art should not be simplistic. Evaluations should also be reliable enough to inspire trust among educators. The Washington State Teacher/Principal Evaluation Pilot (TPEP), first introduced in 2010, was definitely a step in the right direction. Teachers and principals are more focused on what students are learning than ever before, and they are looking at evidence of student growth. Yet, teacher evaluations haven’t exactly achieved a state of nirvana. In fact, there are several concrete ways in which they could still be improved.

With TPEP, a single observer still largely determines teacher evaluations. Usually, this is a school administrator. Even if that person is a dynamic instructional leader, and some are not, evaluation based on a single observer is bad science all the way around. So we still have a system that is devoid of checks and balances. That’s why we should consider multiple measures of a teacher’s effectiveness, such as student perception surveys and peer reviews, to increase reliability and fairness.


0 Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: No Child Left Behind, teacher evaluations, Todd Hausman

April 22, 2014 at 5:00 AM

We’re a well-educated state — but why?

Illustration by Gabriel Campanario / The Seattle Times

Illustration by Gabriel Campanario / The Seattle Times

A new national report by the Lumina Foundation shows Washington’s college-attainment rate is better than the national average.

But because there’s not enough state-wide detail, it’s hard to know if this report merely shows that Washington businesses have been very successful at recruiting well-educated people, who grew up elsewhere, to work here.

Nationally, Lumina reports that about 38.7 percent of adults ages 24-65 have a two- or four-year college degree. “Overall, the U.S. attainment rate has been increasing slowly but steadily; in 2008, it was 37.9 percent, and in 2009 it was 38.1 percent,” the report notes. The foundation’s goal is for 60 percent of working adults to have a two- or four-year degree, or other meaningful credential, by 2025.

Washington’s rate is significantly better than the national average; here, 43.3 percent of working adults have a two- or four-year degree, and in King County, the number is 56 percent.


0 Comments | Topics: higher ed

April 21, 2014 at 1:08 PM

Round-up: State officials ‘fully expect’ to lose federal waiver, N.Y. tests include product names

Officials ‘fully expect’ to lose No Child Left Behind waiver: The Washington OSPI is now discussing “when,” not “if” the U.S. Department of Education will revoke the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver. Without the waiver, districts would lose control of about $40 million in federal Title 1 funding. A decision is expected by the end of the month.

State needs to do more to help high-school counselors (editorial): The Seattle Times editorial board is calling for more guidance counselors who can help Washington students navigate the complex college-application process. The editorial follows a April 13 Education Lab story about how nonprofit programs are stepping up to help low-income students pursue higher education.


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

April 21, 2014 at 5:38 AM

Teachable moment: Millionaire honors high-school history teacher in Tacoma

Most teachers work in relative obscurity, known to their students but largely invisible beyond the classroom. Last week, however, a history teacher in one of Tacoma’s high-poverty high schools attracted the attention of one of the wealthiest men on the planet.

Nathan Gibbs-Bowling, 34, felt little except annoyance when told to report to an all-school assembly at Lincoln High last week. Moments later, he was handed a $25,000 Milken Educator Award from disgraced financier-turned-philanthropist Michael Milken.

“We give Grammys to musicians, gold medals to Olympians, Nobels to scientists and others. But we give too little recognition to the people with society’s most important job – educators,” Milken said.

The rest of the week was a whirlwind for Gibbs-Bowling. Caught on a Friday afternoon while unloading his dishwasher, the history teacher reflected on his new platform and the ways that teaching has evolved.



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